We give all the credit to you, our guests...with extreme appreciation. Hampton Terrace has earned a 2010 TripAdvisor "Certificate of Excellence."
With over more than 300 reviews, you have made us #1 in Lenox for years...with a "satisfaction index" of 99.3 over the last 6 months and 98.8 over the last six quarters.
This is a full six points over the average score in Lenox....which many, including USA Today and BedandBreakfast.com consider the highest concentration of upscale inns in the country.
TripAdvisor is far-and-away the #1 source for evaluating lodging properties. 400,000 properties are listed with 45+ million reviews. Reviews are posted anonymously...and everything is accepted, unless fraud can be proven. It is the ultimate empowerment of the traveling public.
Google considers public-offered content...especially reviews...the most relevent social interaction possible. Therefore a MULTITUDE of travel-rating platforms have been created....but TripAdvisor has become the Facebook of this genre. At this point, there is such a critical mass at TripAdvisor that the race is over.
And the lodging industry fought it. Obviously. Transparency has changed the face of travel. No longer can someone renting out their spare bedroom pass themselves off as an inn. No longer can the flea-infested motel on the side of the road take your money without remorse, knowing that there are plenty of drop-ins after you. Now you....on your computer or on your phone..have the ability to see what percentage of guests before you posted "do not recommend."
Nowhere has this been most felt than the bed and breakfast industry. There are tens of thousands of b&bs and inns. You have expectations...and frankly until now...some of those properties had no way to fill them, and you had no recourse. Ask for your money back? Contact the local BBB?
Now your negative review is feared by every one of them who hopes to stay in business. Their options are to close, or upgrade. You win.
Several weeks ago I covered this subject in Romantic Getaways: Four Ways to Pick the Perfect Inn or B&B.
I also covered the subject of b&b stereotypes in Nailed It! Parks and Recreation's Take on B&Bs.
So, thanks again to you....our guests for your feedback, positive and negative. We ask for your opinions, and we do act on constructive comments.
It is your anniversary.... Your birthday.... You want to propose to your girlfriend.... You need to leave the office behind for a long weekend.... Let's go to a Comfort Inn!
That's silly. But as I said yesterday, 97% of the traveling public has never stayed in an inn or a b&b. Does that mean 97% are content that a Microtel is the place for that "special moment?"
It has more to do with common misconceptions and insecurities than reality. Many people are afraid they are going to end up sleeping in someone's guest bedroom and eating breakfast in their kitchen with the homeowners in their pajamas. Before the age of the Internet...that actually happened to us!
In this age of transparency, this can no longer happen.
The folks who are actually insecure now are the hotels and motels. They KNOW that you want a more intimate experience.
That is why they call themselves Hampton "Inn," Holiday "Inn," and Comfort "Inn." That is why they ALL include breakfast as an amenity now....each year inching closer and closer to full, hot, home-style options.
To make themselves sound less like chains, many call themselves "boutique" hotels. More often you are finding the kind of special services formerly offered only at b&bs: afternoon tea and snacks, fireplaces and Jacuzzis, evening wine and hors d'oeuvres, personalized concierge services, choices of comforters and pillows, fluffy towels, multiple bath amenities....
And many, if not most inns, have addressed your misgivings by modernizing: people will not tolerate shared baths, they want free wireless internet, wide-screen tvs with cable, access to refrigerators, tasteful decorating....
So how do you pick the perfect inn or b&b?
- Look at their website: Every serious property knows the value of a good website. Good photography. Adequate descriptions of each room and its amenities. Clear policies. Acceptable breakfast options. Here is your chance to avoid the places that have floral wallpaper, plaid bedspreads, and lace doilies. Or, embrace it, if that is your style. If they are professionally presented on-line, then they are likely professional in person. Websites are expensive, and this shows a commitment to their business...but.
- Eliminate the "likely:" There are other signs that the owners are running a business...not just making extra money by renting out empty bedrooms. Do they belong to a Chamber of Commerce, local Visitors' Bureau, PAII (Professional Association of Innkeepers), state associations.... Do they take on-line reservations? Accept credit cards? You can glean all of this from their website. And if a certain inn pops up in multiple Internet searches, then you are finding further proof of a professional operation. Inn size? Not important. There are great 4-room inns and horrible 20-room inns.
- Read their Reviews: This is the most important! Go to TripAdvisor.com and read! TripAdvisor prints EVERY review, good and bad. They do not edit and they only eliminate reviews that are proven to be fraudulent or planted. And do not let an occasional negative review throw you off.... No property is going to please all of the people all of the time, and a really good indicator of how hard an owner is trying to satisfy his/her guests is the "Management Response." But be wary of reviews on some "directories." There are lot of websites that list inns and b&bs. The properties pay for those listings. Some have reviews...but in order to keep the inns renewing their listings, they allow the inns to "hide" reviews they do not like. TripAdvisor is an open listing and properties cannot hide.... It has singlehandedly exposed many dark properties to the light...a good resource for the consumer and a problem that will not go away for properties with issues.
- Call them: How a property responds to your needs and questions on the phone speaks VOLUMES about how you will be treated upon arrrival. If you get a machine and it takes 24 hours for your call to be returned, you can probably assume you will get the same attention when you are seeking ice or an extra pillow. If your questions about room amenties or location are met with impatience on the phone, then you will likely get more of the same when seeking restaurant recommendations in their front hall. Nice people on the phone are usually nice people in person....but for an extra layer of security...see what guests say on TripAdvisor. The truth always comes out.
One final tip: Be wary of "endorsed" or "inspected" inn associations. All of these are membership marketing groups. The property pays a fee and becomes part of a website, directory or book. They are supported by their income...so make no assumptions that an inclusion guarantees your satisfaction. The good news is that most of these associations require a minimum set of amenities to start, an initial inspection and some do surprise inspections. I would say, without exception, any inn willing to do this clears our requirement of being "professional." But we see a LOT of inns who appear on these lists at the bottom of TripAdvisor. Ultimately, believe what you read from a wide sample of guests....
..and enjoy your romantic getaway!
Stan Rosen, owner of Hampton Terrace in Lenox, was awarded a Greylock Award at the BVB’s 71st Annual Meeting on Tuesday evening at the Berkshire Museum. The awards are given to "tourism professionals who are nominated by their peers as having reached the highest peak in their profession." Rosen was honored as the "Outstanding Industry Contributor."
The Berkshire Visitors Bureau consists of over 750 member organizations, of which over 100 are lodging properties. The Bureau is the sole county-wide marketing agency for the Berkshires, which attract over 2.5 million visitors per year, with an annual economic impact of over half a billion dollars. Rosen is chairman of the Lodging Committee and a Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee, representing Central County.
Rosen was recognized for his leadership position on the proposed occupancy tax increases offered to each Berkshire town. Reduced state revenues have caused the Governor to slash revenue-sharing with local towns, while at the same time giving each community an opportunity to raise lodging taxes on visitors from 4% to 6%. The state receives an additional 5.7%. Rosen led a consortium of properties, including Canyon Ranch, Red Lion Inn, Cranwell, Yankee Inn, Hampton Inn & Suites, Comfort Inn in Lee, Devonfield Inn and Topia Inn, to support the tax…as long as a significant percent is annually reinvested in marketing the Berkshires outside of the county.
At the same time that local communities received cuts, the Commonwealth also slashed state-wide tourism marketing budgets by 70%, resulting in an annual loss to the Berkshire Visitors Bureau of $350,000…with more cuts promised by the Governor. Rosen’s "Statement of Position," subsequently affirmed by a larger forum of lodging properties last month, is that the loss in tourism marketing dollars will have a more profound negative impact on tourism than a 2 % rise in taxes…and that if these taxes are going to be collected by the efforts of lodging owners and managers, then they should have a "say" about where some of the money is spent. The group is asking for 7.5% of total taxes collected to be reinvested in out-of-county marketing.
To this point, Lenox and Pittsfield have passed the tax increase, with a promise to make a "significant investment" in marketing. Lee and Great Barrington are considering the tax increase as well. Rosen and his group are working to assure that the tax increases, and their partial commitment to marketing are evenly applied throughout the county.
Mayor James M. Roberto of Pittsfield received the "Extraordinary Leadership Award" for his significant role in the resurgence of Downtown Pittsfield, including the restoration of the Colonial Theater, relocation of Barrington Stage Company to the North Street area, creation of the $23 million Beacon Cinema, upgrades to the Berkshire Museum, and fostering a general sense of optimism that has attracted numerous new businesses to streets that have long been depressed. James Lyon of the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood received the "Outstanding Service" Greylock Award.
Trying new strategies to resist a downturn
Tourist-related businesses are using e-mails, collaborations
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Updated: 05/18/2009 11:11:37 AM EDT
Sunday, May 17
PITTSFIELD — Tourist-related business in the Berkshires should no longer go it alone.
To be successful in the current economic downturn, businesses need to collaborate, cross-promote, and rely on technology — particularly e-mail and the Internet.
A panel that included representatives of several tourist-related venues discussed those strategies and others last week at monthly luncheon sponsored by the Berkshire Visitors Bureau.
One of the most successful examples of the collaborations cited has been the "American Icons" admission program that allows visitors to purchase joint admission to four cultural institutions — Chesterwood and the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge; The Mount in Lenox; and Hancock Shaker Village in Hancock.
Ellen Spear, president and CEO of Hancock Shaker Village, said she and Laurie Norton Moffatt, her counterpart at the Norman Rockwell Museum, came up with the idea last year while looking for ways for ways to attract more visitors to their sites.
Chesterwood, and The Mount were included because they have similar themes and are near each other, Spear said. Chesterwood, a few miles from the Rockwell Museum, was the summer home of sculptor Daniel Chester French. The Mount was author Edith Wharton’s former summer residence.
The plan allows visitors to purchase joint admission to either two or four of those venues, and receive discounted admission at each site. The policy is spelled out on a small pamphlet that resembles a large bookmark.
"It’s a very simple concept," Spear said, holding up the bookmark, "and it can be explained in this amount of space. We were all willing to promote each other, and we all use the same protocol."
Spear said the policy was "such a raging success" last year, that the four partners decided to do it again this year. The joint admission policy began on May 1 and is good until Oct. 1.
"We’re all seeing visitation rates rise because of it," Spear said.
Attempts by press time to get visitation numbers were unsuccessful.
The strategies are important because the number of Americans taking vacations is expected to be down this summer, according to a new poll conducted in April by GtK Roper Public Affairs & Media. A third of those surveyed said they have already canceled at least one trip this year because of financial woes.
The poll, reported by the Associated Press last week, found that only 42 percent of Americans are planning a leisure trip this summer, a drop from the 49 percent who said they planned to take a summer vacation in an AP poll conducted four years ago.
In the Berkshires, lodging establishments need to use a variety of strategies to be successful, said Stan Rosen the owner of the Hampton Terrace Bed & Breakfast in Lenox.
Rosen said he markets his bed & breakfast by stressing the Berkshires first and his establishment second. To attract visitors, Rosen said he sends out a newsletter five times a year, and also writes a daily blog. He updated his Web site this winter, adding all new photography, an expensive gamble that paid off.
"My January-to-April business is 50% higher than what I did last year," Rosen said.
He also responds to the occasional negative review of the inn that visitors post on travel Web sites. Some of his responses have generated more business.
"I can’t tell you how many people tell me we chose your inn because of the way you responded," Rosen said.
He also sends e-mails to guests after they leave.
"I try and create a reason for them to come back, Rosen said."
Bruce Singer, who owns the Devonfield Inn in Lee, said he has found that people who normally stay between four and seven days have shortened their visits to three to four days. Singer said he is "seeing a lot of softness" in bookings between Mondays and Wednesdays.
"We need to find a way to build the experience during mid-week," he said.
Rosen said that his bookings so far are substantially ahead of where they were last summer.
"I think it’s a matter of getting the message out," he said.
Restauranteur Nancy Tho-mas, who runs Mezze in Willi-amstown, Cafe Latino in North Adams, and allium in Great Barrington, said she cross-promotes all three of her eateries "wildly" with e-mail. Details about one restaurant can be found on another’s Web site, Thomas said. She also promotes drinks that are named after cultural venues, including one called "Jacob’s Pillow."
"We want to be part of the community and a partner to the attractions and inns," Thomas said.
Julianne Boyd, the artistic director of the Barrington Stage Company, said the theater company has instituted several cost-saving measures under the theme "Affordable Theater for All" that make it easier for people to attend performances. Boyd said she also makes use of the Internet.
"I think if we’re going to reach young people we really have to use more of the social media," Boyd said. "Translated from what Stan said to theater, we’re doing exactly the same thing."
Carolyn Edwards, the senior marketing manager for the Prime Outlets in Lee, said tourists see the retail mall as complementing their visits to cultural venues.
"We’re not the primary destination," Edwards said. "We’re an add-on. When we go out and talk about us, we talk about the Berkshires."
Outlet malls haven’t been hit as hard by the economic downturn as other Berkshire venues that rely on tourism, she said.
"The good thing about the retail outlet business is that we were a bit more prepared for the downturn because everyone wants a value," Edwards said.